Trajan (53-117 A.D.)Trajan (53-117 A.D.) - Unlike the Julio-Claudian emperors who followed Augustus whose reigns were characterized by widespread brutality and depravity, the rulers of the 2nd century were considered somewhat benevolent by comparison. In fact, history has bestowed on them the cognomen the "Five Good Emperors". Nerva, who was the first, had a very short reign of two years. But his lasting legacy was the adoption of Trajan as his heir. And so upon the death of Nerva in 98, Marcus Ulpius Trajanus became emperor of Rome. He is considered the first provincial emperor as he hailed from southern Hispania; however, he was still probably of Italian descent. Like many of his predecessors, he distinguished himself on the battlefield, eventually becoming a general. And in true military fashion, Rome reached its greatest extent under his reign. It did so by adding Dacia to its empire. Trajan also grabbed Armenia and Mesopotamia from the Parthian Empire, which had become Rome's chief rival. Finally, he annexed the Kingdom of Nabatea and created the province of Arabia Petraea. On the homefront, he was known for several public works projects. He built a new forum (known as Trajan's Forum) which contained a new market (known as Trajan's Market). The market was wisely located opposite the Colosseum which was mutually beneficial to both. The large concentration of people increased commerce among the vendors within the market, while the attendees of the games had a convenient place to shop in between the blood-letting. Trajan also instituted a welfare program of grain subsidies among the poor which was distributed at the market (the combination of entertainment and free bread was quite effective at appeasing the masses). But his most famous monument is Trajan's Column (pictured here), which commemorates the Roman acquisition of Dacia in 106. The forum was completed in 112 and the column erected in 113, which is when the entire complex was dedicated. When Trajan died in 117, power passed on to his adopted heir, Hadrian.